Saturday, June 6, 2015

Zion National Park

So here we are in beautiful Southern Utah. Aside from the 3.2% beer (seriously wrong), this place is really cool. How have I never been here before?

Our starting point for this summer's Radical Sabbatical - Phase II was Zion National Park. We camped for 2 nights at the Watchman Campground, which is just inside the park near the main entrance. Watchman is a pretty kick-ass campground, as far as car-camping campgrounds go. It was completely full but it still felt peaceful, was quiet, and was perfectly clean.

We had an easy first day with a few short hikes to all the famous stuff you are supposed to see. We rode the free shuttle bus around to see all the cool rock formations and what-not (cars are not allowed in the park, which is so AWESOME). Here are a few pics for your entertainment.

The Three Patriarchs - lovely



We took it easy on day 1 because day 2 was death....... 

We got permits to hike the 16-mile Narrows trail, which essentially follows the Virgin River from north to south. We took a bus to Chamberlain's Ranch about a hour drive outside of the park, and started there. You essentially hike along or in the river and finish the hike in the park.

Aside from ridiculously freezing feet in the morning (the water temperature was 57 degrees) and an embarrassing fall on some rocks right into the water toward the end - it was an unforgettable trip.

They say the average hiker completes this hike in 12 hours, 10 hours is considered a fast pace, and we finished in 9 hours (awww yeah - though mostly the fast pace was dictated by my coldness). It was a long day even at 9 hours, I can tell you that. 

Photos tell the story better than I can.

Frozen feet near the beginning.

Amazing one river can do all this.

Look mom, dry feet - for like 8 seconds.

So if you are thinking, "this sounds awesome - I want to go here." A few tips follow:
  • Make your Watchman Campground reservation EARLY. I booked our camp site in January and it was almost full then. Get a shaded pr partially shaded site, you won't regret it.
  • Get your Narrows permit EARLY. On the 5th day of every month at 10:00 a.m., reservations for the next month become available. You have to be on it if you want a permit during busy season. 
  • Do not go during high-season (mid-June through August). Not only will it be 8 million degrees outside, but the park will be absolutely overrun with tourists eating ice cream and drinking coffee on the trails (really, why do Americans have to be eating and drinking during all activities all day - it's weird).
  • Buy the $80 Annual National Park Pass. This thing has already paid for itself and we are just getting started at the parks.
Moving on........

We were supposed to be camping in Bryce Canyon for 3 days, but here was the weather:

Cold outside - warm in the car

He may be wearing shorts but he is freezing.
So we moved a few things around in order to camp in dryer conditions later this week. After all, setting up a tent in the mud is sheer miserableness. I'll let you know how it goes. All I can say is that it was a relief to be in a hotel room last night when it was absolutely storming outside.

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